I know that, for many, the issue of euthanasia is a grey one. Even for those who are vocally against abortion, some still are not sure what to think about physician assisted suicide or physician assisted death (PAS). And there are pro-choicers who, understanding the disagreement on abortion, can’t fathom why someone, like myself, can be hard and fast against the act of euthanasia. How can assisted dying be so bad? What’s the big deal? Why? These are suffering people that just want the ability and the right to die on their own terms.
Yes, I am against euthanasia. I identify with the position that holds a “consistent ethic of life”. This is where I am. I think I recognize the restrictions on my ability to effectively answer the question: Is it right to voluntarily, consensually kill the suffering? I am in my twenties never having experienced terminal illness or old age.
The pertinent questions, though, for people and the Church to consider are the following: What is the worth of an individual? What is the explanation for suffering? What is the response? Can there be meaning in suffering that would justify endurance and render indefensible the termination of the life? These are theological questions that have scant answers from a naturalistic worldview. Not just in the context of PAS, but for ethics in general.
The apologetic importance of the issue is this. How we view life will fundamentally impact our view of purpose and suffering and, thus, how we reach those suffering and in a bleak state of desperation. There’s practical importance. Moreover, our treatment of the suffering, if linked to our view of human meaning and the value of life, hence, must be informed by a biblical perspective. Do I suffer meaninglessly? Unnecessarily? Why do we suffer? Is there meaning in suffering? Is there meaning? Where does meaning come from? And what does this mean for the immediate decision before me whether to live and endure or terminate my existence? These questions are all thirsty for the truth of God and his good, sovereign will for our lives.
PAS, I think, is best broken down into two distinct yet overlapping issues: suicide and euthanasia. This is an issue of suicide because PAS requires the desire to prematurely terminate one’s own life. (When I talk about PAS, I assume voluntary, active euthanasia.) It is also accurately described as a specific form of euthanasia in that is the act of one person killing another person for the purpose of ending their suffering. So, in my mind, in PAS, two things are happening at once. Two people are play that are potentially committing wrong. Both people need hope, need help, need Jesus.
No matter what side of the political or religious fence you’re on, these questions matter because they guide our decisions and the way we read our experiences. The Church should readily, carefully and prayerfully consider the issue because lives are being lost and because there are poor, hurting and desperate souls in the world that need the gospel and the life-rejuvenating purpose and joy that it offers. So far, I have heard very little church discussion about it. This needs to change.